Skip to main content

Putting On a Particle Play

August 18, 2023
an AI-generated artistic image showing swirling quantum particles on a circular stage lit by lights from above

Ions and photons team up to play paraparticles in a production powered by quantum simulation. (Credit: Midjourney/Genkina/JQI)

Listen to Putting On a Particle Play

Relatively Certain Podcast thumbnail

Relatively Certain Podcast

Hear the latest news about everything from quantum computers to astrophysics, all straight from scientists at the University of Maryland.

See all our episodes on Apple Podcasts

Back in the 1950s, theoretical physicists postulated that the kinds of particles we actually see in nature are just the tip of the iceberg. Many other types of particles with weird properties, which they termed paraparticles, were popping out of the math as theoretical possibilities. But as physicists discovered more about the fundamental particles seen in nature, they found no evidence for paraparticles.

In 2016 Cinthia Alderete, then a graduate student in theoretical physics, discovered a way to simulate paraparticles in which ions and light come together to put on a paraparticle play. To direct this dramatic reenactment, Alderete made the switch from theory to experiment and moved from Mexico to the United States, collaborating with the group of Norbert Linke, a member of the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation and a former Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute. Together, they brought to life an obscure theoretical curiosity from the past.

We mentioned several papers in the episode. Alderete, Linke and their collaborators have posted two papers to the arXiv preprint server titled "Experimental realization of para-particle oscillators" and "Para-particle oscillator simulations on a trapped ion quantum computer." The older paper quoted in the story, which complained about the disagreeableness of paraparticles, is "Quantum Mechanics of Paraparticles."

This episode of Relatively Certain was produced by Dina Genkina, Chris Cesare, and Emily Edwards. Music featured in this episode includes Picturebook by Dave Depper, Blue Lolo by Fignomo, and Couch Potato by Kathrin Klimek. Relatively Certain is a production of the Joint Quantum Institute, a research partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and you can find it on iTunes and Google Play.



  • Profile photo of Robert Linke

    Norbert Linke

    Adjunct Assistant Professor